Electronics and Semiconductors

GM invests in lithium extraction and refinery vendor EnergyX

12 April 2023
A mine where lithium is extracted for batteries. EnergyX is developing a new method for extraction of raw materials that increases efficiency and improves sustainable processes. Source: Unsplash

General Motors Co. has invested $50 million in Energy Exploration Technologies Inc. (EnergyX), a maker of lithium extraction and refinery technology.

Through its GM Ventures division, the collaboration is focused on unlocking North American lithium supply — which is a critical material for electric vehicle (EV) batteries — and EnergyX’s process improves sustainability and maximizes efficiency in EV raw materials.

EnergyX’s direct lithium extraction (DLE) technology portfolio can make lithium metal directly from brine and potentially in anode-ready form for EV batteries. This allows for more cost-effective process and lithium recovery to unlock a wide supply of lithium in North America that may otherwise be useless.

This investment is part of GM accelerating its transition to electrification. Two years ago, GM vowed to phase out gas and diesel vehicles by 2035 with its plans to become carbon neutral by 2040. Then one year ago it invested $7 billion in four EV manufacturing sites in Michigan in what the company said was the single largest investment in its history.

Another major part of this transition is to source raw materials for batteries for EV such as the $650 million equity investment in Canadian vendor Lithium Americas Corp. It is also securing a new source of factories for building EV batteries including an Ultium cells joint venture plant with LG Energy Solution in Warren, Ohio, which is in production. And additional JV sites in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and Lansing, Michigan, scheduled to open in 2023 and 2024.

Three components

Under the investment, the two American companies will collaborate on three components:

  • Commercialization EnergyX’s advanced DLE and refinery processes.
  • Allow GM to access competitive lithium offtakes for GM’s exclusive use in EV production.
  • Using EnergyX’s tech to drive potential supply chain opportunities for GM.

“We are committed to securing EV critical minerals that are sustainable and cost competitive to maintain our leadership position among automakers,” said Jeff Morrison, GM vice president of Global Purchasing and Supply Chain. “EnergyX is developing a novel direct lithium extraction process that’s not only cost competitive but also will reduce energy, land and water usage as compared to the current extraction and processing process for brine-based lithium. We are excited to be partnered with EnergyX on their efforts.”

The tech

EnergyX’s technology increases lithium recovery rates to more than 90% from the current industry standard of 30% to 40% using ponds and hit 94% during field trials. Called LiTAS, during a five-month pilot program EnergyX scaled its systems for market demonstration plants located at five regional test beds in North and South America.

The goal is to commercialize the process and the new round of financing will help broaden its research and development efforts for pure lithium metal anodes and its solid-state lithium metal battery program called SoLiS.

To contact the author of this article, email PBrown@globalspec.com

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